Thursday, August 14, 2008


Cut to the Jazz Man, standing alone on a street corner under an orange sodium light. Fedora slung low, his pinstripe suit glistening with a vaguely incandescent rain. His muted trumpet lost to the city traffic.

Cars slide by, the wet pavement trying in vain to shush the unmuffled exhaust and the blaring thump of hip-hop and techno. The trumpet fills the void between the beats, like the past reaching out and brushing its cold fingers along the bottoms of your bare feet. The drivers don't even know it, but they're driving over someone's grave.

The oily slick on the street reflects scattershot glimpses of undercarriage neon. The Jazz Man's eyes stay closed. He doesn't need to see it anyway. He knows how far he's come, as his wrinkled but not yet arthritic fingers work the valves and his creaky wrist pulls at the mute.

Occasionally, someone walks by, but there's no case for spare change. This is a solo for the night, for whoever happens by. For the Jazz Man and by the Jazz Man, though if you asked him, he'd only say it was jazz, as though it wrote itself out of the ether and just took hold, focusing through the bell of a horn that has seen more years than most.

More cars, more bass. More voices. One sided conversations rattle and bounce by as the bars close and he adjusts his song, adding little flourishes, increasing the tempo. Lively and yet still somehow mournful. A song that knows something you don't.

People walk by. Some stop to listen, then drift away. Fading back into the night carrying little pieces of the song with them and dreaming, for reasons they don't understand, of private eyes smoking in dim hotel bars and flashbulbs popping and glamorous women smoking cigarettes from slim silver cases. Maybe they hum a few notes before they drift off, wondering where they heard that song.

The Jazz Man's tune slows as the city heads toward sleep. There are fewer cars on the road, fewer voices, lonelier footsteps. The song slows down, then finally whispers to a stop. The Jazz Man opens his eyes and walks, his suit still shiny with rain, into the night.

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